Sour Grapes - The Bitter Whine of Florida's Democratic Party
by Donna Doyle

In her September 17 concession speech, Janet Reno pledged her full support to fellow Democrat Bill McBride in his November bid to unseat Florida's Republican Governor, Jeb Bush. "I will file lawsuits in my name, I will do anything I can . . . to see that the voting processes of this state have the confidence of the people . . . and can produce a democratic result."

Or, is that a Democratic result?

Any endeavor that includes the human factor is bound to have problems. With new laws passed to correct those recognized after 2000's election, redistricting and new precinct boundaries resulting from the last Census, and $32 million in new technology for the voting process itself receiving its first real test, September 2002's primaries were especially ripe.

Except once again, all of Florida is the focal point of stories about election day ineptitude. Words like bungled and debacle flow freely from the mouths and pens of reporters, newscasters, and pundits, comparing this election to 2000's, branding an entire state for the problems that again occurred primarily in two of South Florida's Democratic voting districts: Miami-Dade and Broward counties, both Reno strongholds.

Initially, Reno planned to challenge the Broward and Miami-Dade results in court. When it became apparent it still wouldn't produce the numbers necessary to win, she considered filing a lawsuit to require a statewide recount. Then warned by McBride's campaign manager, Robin Rorapaugh, that it might turn voters against the Democratic party, Reno found a new target: the person against whom McBride will be running, Jeb Bush.

"He's responsible for Florida's failure to get it right," Reno said. "We wouldn't be in this mess today if Jeb Bush had learned the lessons from 2000 about how to run an election," said Mo Elleithee, her campaign manager.

Both chose to ignore that each county's election board is responsible for its own voting process, not the governor, and that except for a few isolated problems in Florida's 65 other counties (i.e. poll workers in Duval County's Mary Singleton Center didn't realize the machines had to be switched on in order to work) the vast majority of Florida's voters experienced no difficulty.

Then again, the Democrats weren't exactly straightforward the last time Florida elections involved someone named Bush.


Florida was not the only state with election day problems, just the most publicized.

Polls had said the Presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush would be close. How close no one realized until the results began coming in. The electoral college count swung back and forth, until only Florida's 25 remained to decide who would become the next President of the United States.

Nothing was too low and no distortion, exaggeration, or fabrication was ignored by the media. Even outside the United States, reports began circulating of how Floridians had been systematically denied the right to vote for Gore, including the oft-repeated tale of Blacks on their way to polling places being turned back by police roadblocks.

Crying that every vote should count, it quickly became apparent that only those that produced a "Democratic result" mattered.

Because of the close results, the statewide recount was automatic. When completed with Bush still the winner, Gore's team sued for repeated hand counts in their four best-bet South Florida counties, all heavily Democratic. Lawsuits were filed in Seminole and Martin counties, both predominantly Republican, to toss out 25,000 votes. The absentee ballots of active duty military personnel stationed overseas, believed to be predominantly for Bush, were disallowed if franked instead of postmarked.

Months later, independent analysis of the votes still showed George Bush the winner of Florida's 25 electoral votes. And after numerous investigations, the media-hyped stories about large segments of Florida's population being denied the right to vote all turned out to be bogus.

By then, unfortunately, Florida had become the nation's laughingstock.


Janet Reno's vow to do anything she can to ensure Bill McBride's election promises another bumper crop of sour grapes if Jeb Bush wins a second term.

Next month, elections will be held not just in Florida but in other states as well. There will be glitches in every single one. But if Bush is re-elected on November 5, only those problems in Florida, no matter how inconsequential, will be newsworthy.

If you hear stories next month of how Florida's election system is a complete disaster, recognize the accounts for what they truly are: a bitter whine made from sour grapes, by Florida's Democratic Party.

©2002 The Tocquevillian Magazine